IBM ThinkPad gets 1st consumer push as global ads begin

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IBM Corp. is launching its first consumer ad campaign for notebook computers, to drive demand for a ThinkPad specifically designed for that market.

The effort is as noteworthy for what's not in the media plan as what is. Primary media will be radio, outdoor boards, postcards, mall boards and wild postings in 10 key major markets in the U.S. The only initial print placement will be in Rolling Stone; IBM will add more publications early next year as sales volume builds.

This is part of a low multimillion-dollar global campaign. The European leg begins early next year, with new ads in Asia/Pacific starting soon after. Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, developed the global campaign except for a TV effort in Japan done by IBM's local agency, McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Tokyo.

IBM has lagged far behind key retail rivals Compaq Computer Corp. and Toshiba America in creating a consumer notebook. For the past two years, retail stores have sold slightly revised versions of IBM's commercial ThinkPad line.

The marketer remedied that with the November arrival of the $1,499-to-$2,499 ThinkPad i Series, the first IBM notebook designed specifically for people who have to shell out their own money for a computer.


>While acknowledging rivals beat IBM into consumer notebooks, VP-Consumer Solutions and Strategies Jim Bartlett contends ThinkPad has an advantage based on its strong brand.

"People wanted a ThinkPad, they were thinking of it, drooling over it before we ever got it in the consumer channel," Mr. Bartlett said.

Matt Sargent, an analyst with ZD Market Intelligence, said the combination of "IBM" and "ThinkPad" should allow the marketer to garner a small price premium over rival brands at retail.

The new ThinkPad targets home users; entrepreneurs and small businesses; college students; and families.

The ads, shot in London by O&M's New York office, share oblique, arty, European-looking images in keeping with ThinkPad's hip appeal. Ads start with the phrase "i have," playing off the "i Series." One mall panel, showing a young man in his right-wheel-drive car, reads: "i have a new job, a new shirt, polished shoes, a ThinkPad."


IBM is shooting ads in Singapore and China, and over time will develop some in the U.S. so that each country will be able to choose from "a gallery of photography," said Scott Frank, director-worldwide advertising for IBM's Personal Systems Group.

Ads note the $1,499 starting price, but the focus is on the brand. In stark contrast to most PC advertising, IBM's new effort glosses over product specs and big images of the product, presenting the ThinkPad brand name as a technology fashion statement.

The new product has the ability to play CD's when the PC is turned off.


Even before the arrival of the new ThinkPad, IBM garnered an 11.9% share of the U.S. retail notebook market in the 10 months through October, based on strong sales of the old models, ZD Market Intelligence estimates. That put IBM in distant third place, behind Compaq (Presario) at 36% and Toshiba (Satellite) at 35.2%.

Just a year ago, IBM's U.S. consumer desktop share had plummeted to 3% after IBM missed the move into sub-$1,000 PCs. But with the introduction of such hot models as $599 Aptiva, IBM has seen its retail desktop share soar to 22.7%, second only to Compaq's 28.5%, through October.

"People were writing off IBM in the consumer space a year ago," noted Mr. Bartlett. But no one is writing off consumer Aptivas, or ThinkPads, now.

Copyright December 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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